Hair changes. The color turns gray, the texture can become coarse, the shine dulls, strands thin and density decreases. For many of us past age 60, the crown we’ve worn all our lives no longer boasts the glory that used to make us proud.
So I asked my hairdresser, “What do you want the 60+ woman to know about her hair?”
His response was simple: “You can handle change.” Ah, change. Just the word I was hoping to avoid.
For 40 years, I’ve been a trade journalist writing about hair and salon management for the professional beauty industry.
I knew that my contacts would help me dive deeper into 60+ hair, so I called two of them – Jim Roberts, master educator/hairstylist and owner of J Roberts Salon in Roanoke, Virginia, and Laura Yochum, hairdresser and educator for Wella Professionals. Again, the word “change” came up a lot.
With women in their 60s and 70s making up more than half his clientele, Jim has become quite the expert in keeping hair beautiful for women in this age group. He appreciates that we 60-plussers show up on time, tip generously and recommend our stylists to our friends.
“These women want to embrace what they have,” Jim told me. “They’re not trend chasers.” So, if we’re not slaves to the latest trend, what’s all this change about?
Many of us haven’t changed our formula since we began coloring at the first sign of gray a couple of decades ago. But skin tones lighten as we age, and a lighter hair tone will avoid high contrast, soften the complexion and add shine.
“Warm tones reflect light – think of sunlight on a lake,” Laura says. “Your hairdresser can add just a touch of gold to reflect light and make the hair shinier, less ashy and more conditioned.”
Lighter tones also provide better gray coverage, according to Jim, who adds that roots show sooner on dark hair. “My darker-haired color clients come in every two to three weeks,” he reports. “You might as well pitch a tent in the salon!”
A dramatic color like fiery red may start looking hollow and too bright. “Look at photos of yourself to see whether that red still flatters you,” Laura says. “Your stylist can add neutral shades into your formula to diminish the brightness.”
But don’t rule out a warm, beautiful red.
“If you wear blonde nicely, most likely you can wear red, too, but not a violet red in your 60s,” Jim says. “Your skin tones will support a rich copper red, which also can bring out your eye color.”
While dimension works well on women our age, highlights are most noticeable on darker hair. They tend to blend into lighter hair as the color grows out. Jim suggests asking your stylist to provide dimension with lowlights instead of highlights.
“Lowlighting enhances the vibrance of the blonde,” he says, “like sweet and sour.”
Ending the hair-color cycle is a journey and a commitment. It doesn’t happen in just one visit. Laura explains that a full transition to gray, especially for ends of the hair that may have several years of color piled up, will take 4–6 visits, each 3–5 weeks apart. It’s roughly a six-month process.
“You’re going to walk around with a two-tone look for a while,” she says. “Keeping the integrity of your hair will be the most important part of this process. Your stylist will use a lightener or color reducer to lift the color, and then apply a temporary gloss or toner to transition and mask it.”
You may continue glossing after the transition is complete. Jim explains, “Heads that naturally have sparkly, beautiful gray hair are few and far between.”
While there’s no age limit on long hair, sometimes a style is more habit than thoughtful choice.
“I ask some clients, ‘Have you ever worn shorter hair?’” Jim says. “Sometimes a woman will say she had short hair when she was 12 years old and it looked terrible.” It’s time to try again!
Not only have products and styles changed, but your face, hair and confidence have all developed since that haircut at age 12.
“Women with longer hair often put it up in a ponytail or bun,” Laura reports. “At that point, a lot of them figure they might as well cut it off.” Women like short hair because it’s easier to care for, especially if the hair has become coarse and unruly.
For some women, texture has delivered the biggest change. If you notice more curl in your hair, you may be tired of fighting it.
“I’m surprised how many women in this age group have never used a diffuser,” Jim says. Attaching a diffuser to your hairdryer will dry the hair while maintaining the curl rather than blowing it out straight. You’ll need a curl-enhancing styling product to go with it.
You also may be noticing that your hair is thinning. This can be due to anything from the medication we’re taking to years of having our hair texturized with razor-cutting. You may think that pretty layers are in your rearview mirror and a blunt cut is your only option, but Jim says this is not the case.
“Texturizing tools and techniques have changed dramatically,” he says. “Don’t let bad experiences create barriers.” If your stylist knows modern techniques, you can trust that you’ll get a good haircut with a texturizing tool.
Update the products you’re using to volumizing shampoos and styling aids. Your hair can probably look fuller than it does.
Before you use any hot tool, you should apply a heat-protecting product. And select a mid-range temperature. “Don’t crank up your iron to 400 degrees,” Laura cautions. “That can break your hair.”
Your stylist also can recommend a deep conditioning mask to use once a week and, if you have color, a color-protecting shampoo and conditioner.
“Also protect color by wearing hats, staying out of the sun and washing your hair less frequently,” Laura advises.
A change in style is exciting when you go through a life change. You don’t have to be mourning a death or going through a divorce – it can be more of a rebirth with retirement, relocation, a major trip or becoming a grandma.
“Tell your hairdresser you’re ready for something new!” Laura urges. “That’s the best thing a hairdresser can hear. It’s easy to pull up photos of actresses wearing different styles to give you ideas.”
Laura also points out that we tend to use hair to hide things. “Bangs can be a friend if you’re uncomfortable with the lines in your forehead,” she says.
At this stage of life, you may need your hairdresser more but have less money to spend. Jim says many hairdressers will be open to finding ways to cut costs. For example:
You may find yourself going to the salon less frequently than you did when you were younger, and this can feel like a loss. If you miss the salon atmosphere, Laura recommends booking time for just a shampoo and blowout.
“Or try a microdermabrasion for your scalp!” she suggests. “A scalp microdermabrasion will help your hair and scalp health along with giving you the relaxing experience of being in the salon.”
Jim says women in their 60s and older switch stylists when their last salon either didn’t provide the customer service they wanted or the stylist didn’t offer new ideas for their style.
No matter how long you’ve been going to your hairdresser, every visit should begin with a consultation and not just an assumption that you want the same look as last time.
“Your stylist should be thinking about you right from when you walk in,” Laura says. She suggests wearing a trendy outfit or a bright red lipstick to indicate that you’re open to new ideas that will get you noticed.
The salon should be a refuge for you – somewhere you love to go.
“Even if you’re just cutting off an inch of hair, your stylist can build excitement from the moment you sit in the chair so that you’re already looking forward to returning next time,” Jim says. “No client should be taken for granted. The baby boomer generation is still the bread and butter of the hair salon and should be appreciated.”
How often do you visit the hair salon? What service do you use the most? Did you recently switch salons? What was the reason? Please share with our community!